Treasure Island Music Festival
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Maybe it has something to do with Scientology, but Beck doesn't age like normal humans. He looked a little tired for a moment, to be sure, taking a breath after the set-opening "Devil's Haircut" -- on which the bass was far too loud and everything else was muddy and we had a sinking feeling about what the rest of the hour would bring -- but 15 minutes later, ripping a harmonica solo on "One Foot in the Grave," he had found his swagger. "I'm gonna try to keep you guys warm," he said, tossing his scarf over one shoulder of his red suit jacket, before sliding into a delightfully sneering version of "Tainted Love," backed by lean and effective guitar, bass, drums and keys.
He loosened up about halfway through the set, running through 2.5 decades of hits, including some it's almost surprising he still plays: "Loser," "Think I'm in Love," "Que Onda Guero," "Girl," "Where It's At." For someone who could easily get away with being whichever version of Beck he happened to feel like at the moment, he seemed more than happy to simply cover his bases.
Some stand-out moments, then, that didn't feel like we were all there for Beck, the Career Retrospective:
1) He brought Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss out to share vocals on "Let's Get Lost," with the introduction "Please indulge us as we play a song we've never done before" -- though a quick search tells us it was released on the Twilight soundtrack (?).
2) Songs from Sea Change are aging better than others. His voice turned nakedly earnest on "Golden Age," with Smokey Hormel's slide guitar drawing the crowd into the track's rich melancholy; "Lost Cause" was a depressive's lullaby.
3) The first song of a three-song encore was an extra tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Debra," off Midnite Vultures, which is both the best Prince homage in existence and also possibly the best song ever written about wanting to romance two sisters at once. "Lady, step inside my Hyundai/I'm gonna take you on a trip around the world ... I have these frequent flier miles saved up," began a five-minute ad-lib about budget travel, including the drawbacks of non-refundable tickets and where the layovers are on an economy flight to Bangkok ("Georgia, Osaka, and I forget the third.") Best of all, toward the end of the song, he cracked, stepping away from the mic as he made himself laugh. Beck's cheesiness levels have always been relative to how seriously he takes himself; it's nice to know that's still not really an issue. See also: at least two instances of trying to do a cool jump/dance move with a piece of glittery fabric that someone had tossed onstage and instead tripping/wrapping himself up in it/knocking the mic down.
4) An exceedingly fun cover of "Billie Jean." Not quite sure why we were surprised to learn that Beck can moonwalk, because of course Beck can moonwalk. But that doesn't make it any less grin-inducing, especially a few minutes after he says "I'm not gonna moonwalk. I can't do it," with the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. Rest assured, he can do it; matter of fact, his gawky frame was almost a little too MJ-reminiscent for comfort. Two bros next to us set about high-fiving nearly everyone in a 10-foot radius as the song wound down. "Dude, I feel like we just witnessed something special," said one, wild-eyed, as he held up his palm. "Dude," confirmed several other dudes in unison, as they high-fived him back. They certainly weren't wrong.